Japan first began producing sake on an industrial scale during the Edo period (1603-1868). This era saw the introduction of the waterwheel, which became the means of propelling rice-polishing machines (eliminating the previous manual process of polishing rice grains).
Sake production improved dramatically during the 20th century with the first government sake brewing research institute opening in 1904, more advanced machinery and specifically selected yeast strains. Wooden barrels were also replaced with enamel-coated steel tanks, which eliminated the flavor the wooden barrels imparted, allowing for the sake’s pure flavor to remain.
Always at the cutting edge of brewing technology, Japan’s larger breweries have incorporated computer-controlled equipment, producing sake on an even greater industrial scale. However, the time-honored methods of producing handcrafted, premium sake remains alive among smaller, family-owned and operated breweries. These breweries source local ingredients while utilizing their microclimate to showcase regional styles and flavors producing what is known as Jizake, or regional sake.